New-Jersey-born and Nebraska-raised, Tehillah Alphonso is a Nigerian-American vocalist, pianist, music director, and GRAMMY®-nominated arranger based in Los Angeles, California. A proud Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Southern California, she received her B.M. in Popular Music Performance from the Thornton School of Music and was named 2020 Outstanding Graduate, becoming the first Black woman in the pop program to achieve this award. While a full-time student at USC, Tehillah served as Business Manager and Music Director of USC’s premiere a cappella group and five-time ICCA champions, the SoCal VoCals.
Her time in the VoCals has led her to perform in venues such as the Staples Center, the Rose Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and many historic theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Upon graduating, she quickly made a name for herself in the session music industry, having sung on a number of films and television shows and alongside notable artists, including Lebo M., NIKI, Dan Wilson, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo.
As the firstborn, first-generation American and the first aspiring musician in her Nigerian family, it seems Tehillah Alphonso was destined to play the guinea pig. Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, the closest Tehillah ever got to a career in music were her eight-year-old piano recitals, the occasional spotlight in church – quite difficult to avoid as the pastor’s daughter – and the impromptu performances forced on by her mom. So when music didn’t look possible locally, she made the impulsive decision to branch out nationally, quickly landing her a spot in the inaugural year of LA-based summer camp, A Cappella Academy, in July 2014. The Academy – where she has recently returned as an arranger and music director – not only marked the halfway point of her time left in high school but, most importantly, the beginning of what would be a lifelong pursuit of a serious musical career.
This newfound love of performing led Tehillah to some of the most prestigious music programs and ensembles around the country, including the Honors Performance Series High School Choir in 2015 and YoungArts in 2016. Growing increasingly eager to escape Nebraska’s harsh winters and pursue music professionally, Tehillah went on to study Popular Music Performance in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.
Moving halfway across the country to a city where she had two-and-a-half friends and no idea what she was doing proved to be the most intimidating and exciting problem Tehillah had ever faced. Diving head-first into this new reality, Tehillah joined the SoCal VoCals, USC’s premier and world-renowned a cappella group, for whom she would go on to be their business manager, music director, and award-winning arranger over the next four years. Her time in the VoCals also led her to perform in venues such as the Rose Bowl, the formerly named Staples Center, the Vaults Theatre in London, the Beacon Theatre in New York, and Carnegie Hall. A proud Summa Cum Laude graduate, she graduated from USC in the notorious year of 2020 and was awarded the title of Outstanding Graduate, making her the first Black woman in the Popular Music Program to achieve this award.
Between performing with the VoCals and with her classmates, Tehillah slowly discovered her strengths in ensemble work, music direction, and arranging. In her short time as an Angeleno, she has contributed her voice and arranging skills to film and television, including: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Affair, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Goldbergs, Midnight Mass, Spies in Disguise (2019), Space Jam 2 (2021), Encanto (2021), and Sing 2 (2021). In December 2020, her voice landed her the role of a lifetime, playing Nala in a live-to-film adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King (2019) for a national tour in Taiwan, finally fulfilling her dream of being a Disney princess.
You may also have seen her on stage performing with local and not-so-local artists, who have included: Rozzi, Dan Wilson, NIKI, Marc E. Bassy, Lebo M, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo. In November 2021, she was nominated for her first GRAMMY® Award in the category of “Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals” for her arrangement of “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, performed by LA-based choir Tonality and conducted by Alexander Lloyd Blake.
Her whole life, Tehillah has had one goal: to sing and to never settle. Wearing her heart on her sleeve and a never-ceasing smile on her face, she has already accomplished more than she ever would have dreamed. As she continues her career, she strives to be an inspiration to Black women and women of color everywhere, pushing the boundaries of gender and racial representation in the music industry. She is beyond ecstatic to embark on the rest of her musical journey!